Columns - 2006

    The things we do

    In this week's exciting episode of Ask the Rabbit, our resident rabbitical scholar tests your knowledge of your very own religion.

    Lettuce begin.

    Aristotle is credited as having said, "What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing."

    This is rubbish. He couldn't have said that, English wasn't a language yet in Aristotle's era. Furthermore, I wonder how much we Jews learn about the things we do. Certainly, we learn many rituals by rote, but how much do we really know them? And how much do we know why we do them?

    Here's a handy quiz to see what you know. Several of these questions are based on actual, real life questions asked by actual people who were really alive when they asked them. Mostly.

    When about to enter a doorway that has a mezuzah, how do you use it?
    a) Kiss your hand, then touch the mezuzah.
    b) Touch the mezuzah with your hand, then kiss your hand.
    c) Touch the mezuzah with your hand, then kiss the person who opened the door.
    d) Touch the mezuzah to the rhythm of "shave and a haircut, two bits."

    Why do Jews wear a kippah?
    a) To hide the horns.
    b) To hide the results of the $9.95 Super Cuts special.
    c) To hide the bald spot.
    d) To hide the secret antennae on our heads tuned to the special frequency that keeps us in contact with the Big G.

    How do you spell Hanukkah?
    a) Chanukah
    b) Hannukkahh
    c) Harmonica
    d) Presents

    How bad is it that you didn't notice that the previous question gave away its own answer?
    a) It could be worse; I could be a Barry Manilow fan.
    b) It did? I need to turn down the Barry Manilow.
    c) I'm still waiting for Barry Manilow to write back about how he spells it.
    d) Not as bad as you not including it as one of the four answers.

    Why do we wrap a leather strap around our arm seven times to hold a piece of parchment to it?
    a) Seven times for the seven hills of Rome.
    b) Many generations ago, someone got a good price at Helga's House of Leather.
    c) You wrap it six times and see if it stays in place.
    d) Show me ten Jews who still do that, and I'll show you a town that can still get a minyan.

    How is it that so many Jews can be fans of a team called the Saints?
    a) Historic underdogs must stick together.
    b) Because the Saints came home as soon as they could.
    c) Opposing defenses are learning the hard way a new meaning for the biblical passage, "and the Bush was not consumed."
    d) All of the above.

    If you're thirty minutes east of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which way do you face when praying?
    a) East.
    b) West.
    c) Pray twice, once in each direction.
    d) Face up; otherwise you're drowning in the Dead Sea.

    What's the biggest political misconception about Jews?
    a) They all vote Democrat.
    b) Conservative Jews are conservative.
    c) They're all fanatical Zionists.
    d) Dianne Feinstein.

    What's the biggest unanswered question when reading the first book of the Torah?
    a) Where did Cain and Abel's wives come from?
    b) Who cleaned the bottom of the ark for forty days and forty nights?
    c) Was Joseph's coat really red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, black, ochre, peach, ruby, olive, violet, fawn, lilac, gold, chocolate, mauve, cream, crimson, silver, rose, azure, lemon, russet, gray, purple, white, pink, orange, AND blue?
    d) Where did all the punctuation marks go?

    If it weren't for Passover, how many people would know that six are the books of the Mishnah?
    a) Thirty-seven.
    b) That depends, how much Manischewitz can you handle?
    c) There's six?
    d) What's the Mishnah?

    What is the least observed major holiday of the Jewish calendar?
    a) Shavuot.
    b) Sukkot.
    c) Shemini Atzeret.
    d) Super Sunday.

    What is the slowest fast date?
    a) Yom Kippur.
    b) Tisha B'Av.
    c) Asarah B'Tevet.
    d) A Sarah I dated once in college.

    How many synagogue board members does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    a) A simple majority.
    b) A simple board member.
    c) The Simple Son.
    d) Does that include facilities committee members?

    In a multiple choice quiz formulated by two rabbis, how many correct answers does each question have?
    a) Three.
    b) Forty.
    c) Eighteen.
    d) All of the above.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who, in Talmudic tradition, will not reveal any clear answers to these pressing questions. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.